Third and one: Bears

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

After Chicago’s 21-14 loss at Atlanta, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:

  1. We might never see what linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa could have done in a full season with the Bears. Tinoisamoa re-injured his right knee Sunday night and his availability for the rest of the season could be in doubt, according to ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson. Normally you would just call for the next man up, but I was pretty impressed with what I saw Sunday night and thought Tinoisamoa could have been a difference-maker this year. Anyone who stands up Atlanta tailback Michael Turner the way Tinoisamoa did in the second quarter deserves serious credit. The Bears can’t be thrilled with their linebacker depth at this point. They now have to hope that Hunter Hillenmeyer (ribs) can return to the lineup quickly so that Nick Roach can move back to his more natural strongside position to replace Tinoisamoa. Although he wasn’t the first NFL middle linebacker to fall for it, Roach got turned around big-time on Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez’s touchdown reception.

  2. Quarterback Jay Cutler played much better against added pressure than he did against Atlanta’s base defense. According to video analysis performed by ESPN Stats & Information, Cutler completed 11 of 14 passes against the Falcons’ blitz for 147 yards and both of his touchdowns. That means both interceptions came against four pass-rushers; overall he completed 16 of 29 passes for 153 yards in those situations. Opposing defensive coordinators, take that paradox for what it’s worth. The best conclusion you can draw is that both interceptions were unforced errors, as they like to say in tennis.

  3. I think you got a pretty good explanation for why the Bears have struggled to get tight end Greg Olsen more involved. There are always multiple defenders around him, whether he’s running a 6-yard drag route or sprinting downfield through the seam. His 41-yard reception in the fourth-quarter was simply an exceptional catch in traffic. No one is going to give Olsen the usual defense against tight ends until one of the Bears’ receivers demands a double team. Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox have all produced this season, but there’s a big difference between production and requiring extra coverage. Until that point, Olsen is going to be minimized in the downfield game. If you take away his longest two receptions this season (41 and 29 yards), you find that Olsen is averaging 6.2 yards on 85 percent of his catches.

And here is one question I’m still asking:

Why isn’t Matt Forte getting more yardage when defenses are working harder to stop the pass? Chicago’s once-reliable tailback has rushed for 294 yards this season, 121 of which came two weeks ago against Detroit. That means Forte is average 43.2 yards per game against opponents who are not the Lions. With defenses focusing on Cutler, it’s hard to understand why Forte and the Bears aren’t more consistent on the ground. There is definitely an offensive line component to this problem, but Forte hasn’t gotten much yardage on his own, either. Back-to-back fumbles Sunday night suggest he’s starting to press a bit. Unfortunately, the Bears didn’t acquire an every-down alternative following the preseason loss of Kevin Jones.